Tips for Traveling to India with Children


As a mom, avid traveler, and owner of a specialized travel company, India is bridged between my personal and professional lives. I promote India, write about India, and have a passion for India. As the wife of an Indian man and a mom to a toddler, traveling to the country has become more than visiting the Taj Mahal and relaxing on palm-fringed beaches. It is now focused on family, home visits, and exposing our son to half of his heritage. My roles and observations are split between tourist and resident, as I navigate hotels, transportation, and a 20-month-old in a country of over 1.2 billion people. Here are my tips for traveling to India with children.

Tips for traveling to India with children

Be flexible and do your research

When we first visited India with our son, Alexander, he was six months old. The entire trip was certainly a learning experience. (Example: We believe in the method of self-soothing. Indians? Not so much.)

We recently returned from another family vacation in India, and I found myself more flexible with the schedule and routine – or lack thereof. I often reminded myself, “It is only two weeks. He can miss naps or eat more sweets from Dadi and Dada.” I also did more research before our departure. Which hotels offer larger rooms or walk-in closets to accommodate a portable crib? Which airline would allow us to check an extra bag for no charge, even on an infant fare?

Wedding in India

My family at a wedding in India

Find the right flights

Invest time to find the flight options and airline amenities best for your family. From U.S. cities, many airlines offer nonstop or one-stop itineraries to larger Indian airports, limiting your layovers and travel time. We selected Air France and Lufthansa for our visits, both for schedule and the ability to check an extra bag plus portable crib for no charge.

Ditch the stroller

Indian streets can be very crowded with limited sidewalks, so strollers are not recommended. Instead parents of little ones should pack a baby carrier. We learned this the hard way, after bringing our stroller all the way to Delhi only to have it folded in the corner for two weeks.  Our second time around, we used our child carrier, which was also an excellent resource for transporting our son between terminals at airports.

Bassinet on Air France

My son in the bassinet on Air France

Pick a big room

Many Indian hotels are converted forts, palaces, and/or private homes, which means larger rooms for spreading out. We love Maidens Hotel in Delhi. Although Oborei is considered a luxury hotel chain, this particular property is more budget-friendly. The rooms are very spacious, and Alexander loved the swimming pool and peacocks that roam on the lawn.

Pool at The Oborei Hotel in Delhi, India

Playing at the Maidens Hotel pool in Delhi

Pack an inflatable booster seat

With the exception of hotels, it is difficult to find high chairs in Indian restaurants. If traveling with a baby or toddler and you prefer to not have a lap child during meals, pack an inflatable booster seat. We also used it at friends’ houses when Alexander wanted to color or play at the table.

Bring the car seat

Car seats are not a common commodity, so expect questions and pictures from curious locals. Our son thoroughly enjoyed the attention, and made many friends along the way!

Driving in India with a Car Seat

My son sleeping in the car seat after his traditional head shaving

Skip the bus

Though buses provide a cheap mode of transport, most are overcrowded and do not offer air-conditioning. Instead, consider hiring a private car and driver, either for a day or proposed itinerary. Not only is it an affordable option, but also it offers more comfort and convenience. It was also nice for us to keep Alexander’s car seat in the vehicle for a multi-day trip, as it saved the time of buckling and adjusting every morning.

Grandparents in India

With Dadi and Dada in Delhi

Embrace the culture

Finally, immerse in the culture and integrate with the locals. Indians are some of the friendliest people in the world and enjoy interacting with foreigners.  Children are considered an integral part of the culture and they are welcomed and included in almost any function or event. So if you are walking down the street and randomly get invited to a wedding, go for it and enjoy the experience!

Would you like to visit India with children? Let us know in the comments!

Allison Sodha is the owner of Sodha Travel, a company that specializes in travel to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. She has been featured in Little India, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and various travel blogs. Allison resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son, but considers India her second home. Read her blog at blog.sodhatravel.com.

Top photo by Doug Raphael, purchased from istockphoto.com. All other photos by Allison Sodha.

Comments

  1. Allison – Thank you for writing a guest post for Travel Mamas! India can seem like a very intimidating destination to Westerners but your tips make such a trip sound like a breeze!

  2. Thanks for the tips, it definitely doesn’t seem as intimidating as I had originally thought! And your son is adorable!

  3. Thank you very much for your information. Am wondering if you can hire a car seat for children over there?

  4. Thank you for sharing this article. We’ve spent the last year travelling around SE Asia with our 3 and 5 year old, and are keen to make it to India next year but of course concerned about travelling there with such young kids. Its nice to read others have great experiences and particularly hear that most hotels have large rooms. Would love to hear your suggestions sometime on the most kid friendly cities/areas.

  5. We travel to India every year and although I agree about the stroller (waste of any effort except in airports and if you fly through the middle east those airports provide strollers in the airport for free) the car seat is something that I don’t take because most of the cars except newer ones never have seatbelts. Most international flights say they will allow FFA approved car seats but they don’t. They’ll make you check it at the gate. I would say look into mosquito netting for any crib or the tents to cut down on bug spray at night. Definitely learn to be zen about bugs, heat, and dirt.

  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences & tips, Jen! Great stuff!

  7. We lived in India when our twins were born, then left for the UK when they were about 3 months old: no problem! Now they are 18 months old and we would love to go back. Our main concern is not getting around in India, it’s getting there! Not that we feel it’s impossible, we’ve overcome some real challenges before, I just dread the reaction of other passengers on the flights when our boys are not in a sleeping mood and noisy. Maybe I’ll just have to get over my concern and just get on with it!

  8. Yep, I guess you’re right, we’ll just have to inform the grandparents and make sure they don’t worry like they mostly do :)

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  9. Thanks for sharing the useful information. As many international tourists choose India as the destination for their family holiday, these tips will surely help the readers in making the right holiday plan.

  10. i like the tips and as i am visiting India next week your tips surely gonna help me lot to make my trip pleasant. thanks a lot for sharing

  11. This has been so helpful, mentioning things I wouldn’t have thought of! I’m Australian and my sister married into a lovely Indian family living in Kerala, and we’ve been invited to her brother-in-law’s wedding in nine months, and I’m so excited! At first I didn’t think it would be possible, my little one will turn 1 days before we leave, but after thinking about it and particularly reading this article, I can tell it is possible and that it’s going to be amazing.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Sharyn – I’m so glad you found this post helpful! What an exciting trip this will be for your family!

  12. Great tips, thanks for these!

    I am going to India in January with my 6 year old and 2.5 year old. We will be in Pune, Mumbai, Agra.

    Are diapers readily available in bigger cities? Or should I pack enough for the entire trip?

    Thanks so much!

    • Allison Sodha says:

      Becky, diapers are available but in smaller quantities with a higher price tag. If possible, pack enough for the entire trip. Also, I found that the leakage protection isn’t the same, so my boys stayed drier with their own diapers.

  13. HI,

    We live in Chicago and debating which airline would be better with our 2.5 year old son: Chicago-Newark-Mumbai or Chicago-Frankfurt-Mumbai. Thoughts?

    Thanks!
    Daniel

  14. What fantastic tips – and you’re right – letting it go for two weeks is a great stress reliever! :)

  15. Very useful tips! I used many of these when traveling to Bali with my son at 21 months of age.

  16. Any advice on the flight?? We are traveling to India with our 19 month old son. Do we bring the car seat on the plane or purchase the FAA approved harness that they sell? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    • Allison Sodha says:

      Megan, we never actually brought a car seat on the plane because our boys stayed calmer and quieter without it. I assume you purchased a seat for your son? If so, you can definitely bring it but please visit the airline website to verify the specs of the seat configure with your airplane. Otherwise you can just buckle him using the regular seat belt. I personally don’t feel the harness is necessary. Happy travels!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Megan – I am a big fan of the CARES safety restraint for use on airplanes. It’s for kids who weigh 22-44 pounds. It gives peace of mind for safety’s sake and is much easier to install/uninstall than a toddler seat. If you’re interested, here’s a link to learn more/purchase: http://astore.amazon.com/travmama03-20/detail/B0012E4FV8 Then you can gate check your car seat for use while in India.

  17. Hi my son will be 19 months when we travel to goa! My husband and I have been before!! Just wondering about jabs , he’s to young for Typhiod doc told me just to avoid feeding him in other places other than the apartment we staying in and cook all his food!!! I can’t be bothered I’m on holiday plus I want him to taste all the foods! He’s old enough for hep b but also wondering about malaria tablets!?! Any tips thanks

  18. Hi, this was the best article I have read about traveling to India with a toddler. My biggest concern is milk! What did you do for milk? We are traveling with a 14 month and 4 yr old. Also, how do you feel about train travel?

    • Geeta- I was worried about milk as well. I traveled a year ago with a 6 year old and 2.5 year old (I was worried for the younger one- he was big into milk at the time). We were only there for 2 weeks (Pune, Mumbai and Dehli), and stayed in hotels. Milk was available in the nicer hotels without a problem, and every hotel had an included breakfast. So we gave him milk there, and then the rest of the day was bottled water or juice.

      If you’re not staying at a hotel, I would suggest looking for a western grocery store (there were a couple small ones in Pune), and I bet you would find boxed milk (shelf-stable). Or, depending on your kid and how long you’ll be there, go without it, finding it where you can. You could probably count on finding it at places like Starbucks, airports, etc.

  19. Thanks so much for the info. You mentioned in your article, you had your son’s traditional hair cutting ceremony in India. Did they use clippers or a blade to cut his hair? We are going on Saturday and I am getting nervous about getting my son’s hair cut! Thanks so much!

  20. And thanks for the tip about bringing a booster! Didn’t think of that, just bought one on Amazon and it will be delivered tomorrow!

  21. Ami – For the hair cutting ceremony, they used a blade. I was nervous, as well, but they did a great (and fast!!) job! Geeta – Where are you staying? Hotels generally have pasteurized milk, though it does taste quite rich compared to what you find here. (My boys love it!) Otherwise, I recommend stopping by a local market and purchasing milk. Most Indian markets now carry various brands of milk so no need to scope out a western store unless visiting a more remote destination. Have a great trip, and enjoy the experience!

  22. Hi, thank you for the replies. We are staying at my husband maternal uncles house in Gujarat, grandevi and in Delhi. My son consumes about 24 ounces of milk a day and I think that they get fresh milk at my husbands home. In Delhi I can buy milk myself. What is the best whole Milk to buy in India? Is cows milk ok?

  23. Hi Allison, we are travelling to Mumbai and then to Goa and Pune with our 3 month old son on Friday for the first time, and are contemplating whether to carry both the car seat and stroller. You say above to ditch the stroller, which I kinda agree as most sidewalks in India won’t support strollers. But how was your experience with the car seat, especially in domestic flights? Was the seat handled well by airport staff, was it checked-in? Can you take it all the way to the gate? And where do they give it back, at the gate or at the belt? We are flying Jet, Indigo and Air India. Sorry for the numerous questions. Looking forward to your response. Thanks, Anand. :)

    • Did you end up travelling with the car seat. I am going with a 5 mth old and was wondering if car seat is really necessary?

  24. I’m so glad I found this piece I was waivering but I’m convinced!

  25. Very nice blog . thanks for share your useful article Tips for Traveling to India with Children.

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